I checked my site log today in a break between clients and court hearings and was pleasantly surprised by the deluge (by my standards) of visitors from Mere Comments, a weblog from the editors of Touchstone, a journal which describes itself as "a Christian journal, conservative in doctrine and eclectic in content, with editors and readers from each of the three great divisions of Christendom — Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox." As you may imagine, they have been watching the news about the papal election with great interest and are very enthusiastic about Benedict the XVI, until yesterday know as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. I have two observations on the new Pope, one frivolous, the other more serious. First, has anyone else noticed how much he looks like an older Joe Pesci or is it just me?
The second, more serious observation is that commentators on the "left" and the "right" seem to be identifying Ratzinger almost entirely with his role as the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a job he never wanted and undertook only at the request of John Paul II. It is often overlooked that Ratzinger is, in his own right, a subtle and occasionally adventurous theologian who several times asked for leave to return to academic life. There is no doubt that he has grave misgivings about the direction modern western society is heading in, but it would be a grave mistake to think of him as a man who can only say "no" or would want that to be his chief legacy to the Church. While my record as a prophet is dismal, I nonetheless make bold to predict that all of us, "left", "right", "center" , Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox, will find something to surprise us in the papacy of Benedict XVI.